Saturday, December 12, 2015

Another Week in the Kitchen

Well, I've survived another week in the kitchen. It was a bit of an effort. Holiday season means busier nights and large groups of friends who meet up for an annual gift exchange. There are office gatherings, shoppers and also groups of tourists who continue to stream in on cruise ships. People want to eat. I'm there five nights a week to facilitate that.

I'm starting to feel competent in the kitchen. I've mastered things that previously eluded me, like frying chicken and boiling eggs properly. I know it sounds funny for a now professional cook to be excited about these things, but being able to do it correctly with consistency is a matter of pride. I know how to cook a perfectly boiled egg now, so it's absolutely creamy when you bite into it. I can also fry chicken drummettes that results in a hot juicy explosion when you bite into them. These things matter if you enjoy food the way I do. I like food that's an experience, and like sharing that experience with others.

I started thinking about why I like to cook so much tonight as I was chopping Brussel sprouts. First I cut off the end of the sprout and then cut it in half. My muscle memory has improved to the point that I can glance around while I do this, and not cut my fingers. I look up and see a vintage street car whiz by on the Embarcaderro. I watch one of the regulars greet his meal with an appreciation that comes from familiarity, and realized how much I'm enjoying this familiarity myself.

I thought about how I enjoy working with food. How it is so multifaceted. Working in a restaurant is very physical work, but also requires technique. It requires patience, waiting for fries to fry is the worst, but also immediacy, salt those fuckers and get me out. You have to plan your movements and the steps it takes to prepare, sometimes multiple dishes, at the same time, thinking through the best method to get it done as you are doing it. 

Cooking is also creative. Not only do you create a presentation, but sometimes you can tell a story with how you put a salad on a plate. Most of the time you just want to get it out and move onto the next order in an effort to keep up with the expiditer. But these other things do cross my mind.

Am I romanticize the process? Of course I am. And maybe that comes from the satisfaction I'm getting from this work. All I know is that I like what I'm doing, and love it when I'm doing it right.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Dinner Shift

I've moved up in the restaurant world to start working the dinner shift. About a month ago, the Chef told me I'd be working nights. I took it as a good sign. Now, instead of waking up at OMG o'clock, I sleep in every day. It's lovely, and by far the best perk of the job. I almost feel like a woman of leisure. 

But the work is a bit harder, faster, more complex, and I finally feel as though I'm getting up to par. I now split my time between two positions. One position does the salads, appetizers and desserts, the other does the fryer and expedites the pantry side of the line. The latter is a bit more complex. Both require immediate reaction, muscle memory and complete focus. There's no time to daydream, or really ponder anything. An order comes in and I have to know how to deal with it. That means either waiting for the rest of the order to be ready before I fire (begin) my part, giving it to the other pantry cook, or firing it right away. All the while I have to keep watch of other orders that may be in various states of process, and keep track of other orders coming in. Sound confusing? It kinda is, but when I get in the zone of making it all happen, it's a pretty great feeling. 

Working fryer has its drawbacks though. For one, I smell like fryer grease by the end of the night. I also have multiple burns on my arms, and the tips of my fingers are becoming calloused from plating hot fries that just came out of 375F oil. When I'm not on the Fryer, I come home smelling like salad dressing. 

And then there's the transport costs of driving into work, which are considerable. I pay two tolls and for 3 hours of meter parking plus gas. I could in theory take Bart, but the cost would be about the same and the commute would take at least an hour more, each not worth it. 

I like what I'm doing. Last night I was clearly in the zone and it was both fulfilling and fun. And somehow, working at night feels less like a job. The shift goes by pretty fast when we're busy, and I generally don't have a problem getting to sleep at night. I also feel like I've turned a corner in this whole process of becoming a cook. I've noticed I'm not as sore as I use to be. My knees and ankles seem to have adjusted to the physicality of the work. I feel well liked in the kitchen and appreciated for my contributions. It's a good feeling.

Life 3.0 is a Go! I'm liking this choice more and more. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Shit Show, It's Contagious

What is a shit show you ask? It's when the shit is always hitting the fan, an excess of drama and bullshit that some people put out in the world, making everything around them a "shit show."

I do my best to avoid this kind of crap, but sometimes it creeps up on me. When it does, it's a lot harder than you might think to not become part of the shit show yourself. Because you see, shit shows are like tornados. They pick up everything in their path and deposit them willienillie. And suddenly, for no reason you can't, or don't function in the normal way because you're so busy reacting to all the shit thrown your way. You can't concentrate, things get lost, you forget things and make lots of simple mistakes because you are unable to pay attention to details when all you're doing is dealing with the shit that's constantly thrown at you, hitting you and mucking up your path.

So what does one do when in a shit storm? Cover up the best we can in protective clothing? Pretend it doesn't bother you? Fight through it to do what you've got to do while saying to yourself, "I'm so tired of this shit!" It's hard to say what the best response is. 

With some people it's easy to say, "stop, lets regroup." But others are really committed to their bullshit and are going to cling to it like their life depends on it. And then there's the stealth bullshit too, that comes from those who make a show of being put together, but are really just flinging shit.

Honestly, for me, I try to distance myself as much as possible from all the shit. It's like I use to tell my kids, "no stupid." Don't do stupid things, don't hang out with stupid people. I think the same rule applies to bullshit and correlating shit show.

Avoidance is possibly the only solution.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I I think I've come to the age of foresight. I think about my future a lot more than I use to.

When I was younger I never worried about what was to come. I knew I had time to do it all over again. I had an infinite number of restarts and do-overs. While I don't fear restarts or do-overs, I don't waste such efforts carelessly. 

I feel as though I'm gaining strength back, physical, mental and emotional. After years of stress from my relationship and work, I thought I just couldn't deal anymore. Now, working in what many consider a high stress job, I seem to be doing fine. I just needed a time out to reset and do-over.

And that brings me back to foresight. In my 20's I just wanted to get to my apex. I climbed, I struggled, I fought my way up a mountain of achievement. (I know, that's a lot of metaphors, even for me.) in my 30s I was mired by my own expectations of achievement as well as the expectations of others. I had a reputation of doing the impossible, but those feats came at a cost. I would ruin myself to make shit happen. 

Now, in my 40's maybe I know better. I pace myself. I set better expectations for myself and I'm much more forgiving for my own failures. In fact, while I don't strive for failure, I embrace it when it happens. I know there's a lesson to be learned. Maybe this is the beginning of wisdom. 

If it is the beginning of wisdom, then I hope it serves me well. I believe it will. And maybe that's the value of foresight, being able to see what good that failures can produce. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Doing well-ish

I was feeling good. Real good. All the things seemed to be going well, but the universe is funny that way. All my things are still going well, but the rest of the world it seems is in chaos. I can't help but feel guilt for not doing more, not caring more than I do, and for distracting myself from the horrors  others must face right now. I just want to be ok.

I'm feeling centered for a change. I feel like I'm on a good path, but still have options. The cooking thing is hard physically, but I noticed this week that I've turned a corner. I'm not all body sore at the end of my shifts now, and I can get through a night with minimal errors. I'm coming into my own as a line cook, learning some best practices and employing skills I've honed for years. It feels good.

And, although I'm not in Canada this year with my beloved, whom I miss like crazy, I know that time on my own is important. He knows that too, and doesn't fault me for my decisions. I'm so very lucky that way.

Life overall is good for me right now. I think this is why I feel so guilty for not being involved in some way, for not doing more or saying more. But what can I say about a situation that is so multiply layered and complex? Of course I feel empathy for the people of Paris, but also for the people of Afghanistan, and Beruit, and Syria and every other country that lives with terrorism and the instability it causes. But we don't tend to mourn all of those lives in the same way, and I hate that in the same way I hate that people of color are treated differently by law enforcement officers in many places.

For us to be better people, for us to show the world how great we are, it's not always about showing military might and a use of force. As a people at least, we would do better to show that we can have empathy for those that don't look like us, and who don't share trends in music or fashion. We would do better to show that we mourn for every life that's taken or the sake of an agenda or ideal. 

I'm doing really good right now. I wish the rest of the world was doing the same.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do Things Make Us Whole?

We got a delivery yesterday. Mine and Wyatt's portion of the household goods from what we left in Japan. Having moved more than a few times, I know this ritual well. Packages arrive, and all of a sudden it's Christmas. There's unwrapping, and "oos" and "oohs". The euphoria of reuniting with possessions is soon followed by confusion. First there the physical confusion. Labeled boxes everywhere holding things you've been doing without. But, that leads to another confusion that makes one wonder, "why do I have all this stuff?"

This particular reunification is ironic, because it's a metaphor for the end of a former union. It's one of the last remnants of two lives that were once bound and now are going separate ways. Looking at what arrived, most of these things are steeped in my own memories as opposed to those that I shared with my spouse. 

In some ways I feel like all these things coming back to me is a final step in becoming my own person again. But I know that things do not make me whole. I've been on this journey, back to myself for a long time. I'm glad I found me again. And although things can be reminders of how I got here, they don't define me. I am who I am because of all I've experienced, and all I've endured. I've made mistakes and learned from them. I've also made achievements and learned not to mistake them for happiness or life satisfaction.

Part of the unpacking process will be deciding what to keep and what to donate. It's a good exercise and an even better reminder of what's important and what's clutter.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Economy of Making It All Work

I'm in the process of learning, that life 3.0 has its own economy. Gone are the days of striving for lofty achievements. I feel like I've at least made a difference in the world, and I'm satisfied with my contributions. That satisfaction however, leaves me with a quandary of "what do I do now?"

The answer is, that which I haven't done, or wasn't brave enough to do before. So, I'm working as a line cook in a San Francisco restaurant. 

Perspective is everything. Those who know me well, congratulate me and look on with awe. Many of those in the industry whom I work with, wonder what I'm doing. I don't feel I really owe an explanation to either side. I'm just muddling through to be honest, but I'm ok with that and where I'm going with it.

And where am I going? I'm simply seeking balance and satisfaction. It's the latter that requires a shift in priorities. I want to be out of debt and only own things I really want and enjoy. Everything else is not necessary. I've figured out what's important to me. I skip owning an expensive TV, in order to have money to buy good kitchen tools. I thrift shop first for things I need, but occasionally, I also find things I want in thrift stores. These practices allow me to dedicate almost 50% of my take home to debts. They make me feel like I'm living smarter.

It's a real challenge. I'm still in transition because I'm still wondering how long I can work in a job that's so physical. But, every day, and every week I manage to maintain, I gain a little more confidence that I'm doing the right thing. I make less money, but I feel like I have more freedom. 

I have the freedom to not have to know everything or be in charge at my job. I have the freedom to not feel as though I have to spend lots of money to impress anyone. And, if I keep to my budget, in a year, I'll have the freedom to maybe not work as hard as I currently do. 

I was in a dark place for a long time, finally saw the light, and rushed towards it. Now I can see there are options for the life I want, as long as I make smart choices. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Party's Over

It's true. Burning Man is over. The city is all but disappeared and what is left are the crews that will continue to tear down the infrastructure and then gleen the playa of traces that we were here. Although we always pass the BLM inspection in the end, I always find traces of the previous year's burn when we arrive the next year. Usually it's small bits: Coins, an earring, a washer. 

It's these small bits that may tell our legacy. A place where people came, for I don't know what anymore. Yes, there's art, and a temporary community, but the event is growing and changing rapidly. Radical Self Entitlement is real. It feels like there is less participation and more consumerism, not in the commerce sense, but in the sense of those who come and take from the community but contribute little more than trinkets that end up in the bottom of dusty bins and backpacks. For many this is merely a place for self gratification where resources and natural beauty is squandered or commodified for the sake of adulation.

For the last few years I've worked a few other festivals with my burner friends. Some were great. Joshua Tree Music Festival is one I'd do again. The crowd was great, the event was small, and the music ranged from Techno and Dub DJs to new folk Mexican music. Then there were the not so great ones. Symbiosis was like working with the Burning Man D-list where several members of their crew had actually been fired from Burning Man DPW. The crowd there was entitled and decidedly shit-show.  Maybe I'm just getting too old for such recklessness. 

In contrast, the crews I work with at the Burn try very hard to get it right. Yeah,there are egos. A majority of the workers here are type A personalities who believe that their way is the right way. Getting so many of folks such as these, myself included, to work together is one of those things that I think qualifies as Playa Magic.  But still there are melt downs, miscommunications, even malicious behavior. We're human after all. Ultimately, we all know that sun rises and the sun sets providing us with beautiful sights to behold. It's part of what keeps us returning every year. But, I can't help but think the sun rises everywhere and that there are many more adventures to be had. 

At Burning Man one of our Principles is to leave no trace that we were here. But we have left many traces. Beyond the small bits and pieces that get buried in the playa only to resurface at the whim of the wind and rain, there are traces of this counter culture throughout the world now. Dub step can now be heard in TV ads. There are multiple regional burner events, and I heard that in a recent panel discussion, event organizers were grilled by other event mavens to grasp at bits of wisdom to make other festivals more participatory, more like Burning Man.

Burner culture is out there. I can only hope that it's the best of what happens here that gets blended into the mainstream. I'm still thankful for this experience, but ready to see what's next.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Burning Man Again

Yup, it's that time of year again. Once again, I'm out on the Playa, for only five weeks this year. Everything is familiar from the routines to the faces, to the conditions, save the bugs. Yeah the bugs were real.

They came in swarms that lasted four to six hours, and then just as soon as they appeared, they would fall to the ground in piles. Some of them bit, some of them stank, some just crawled. It was an experience unlike any other I've ever had out here. You haven't lived till you've sneezed out a bug or flossed them out of your teeth. True story.

I know how lucky I am to have these experiences. I'm so glad my life has been such an adventure. On the side of the Artery, the artist headquarters on Playa, there's a black wall with the words, "Before I Die..." Below those words are places to write things in. When I looked at it I thought, yeah, there's still more I want to do, but if I went tomorrow, I'd be good. 

I've put two great people out into the universe who are smart and kind, and considerate and creative. I've traveled, learned languages, and had a lot of experiences most people never have. I found love when I had all but given up that the possibility of a loving relationship was even real. I really am good.

When I shared that thought with a friend out here, she told me that those words came as a great comfort to her. That was the day Spoono died. I won't claim to have known him well, but he was a friend. He cheered me on in my endeavors, and encouraged me to continue work in the food industry. I was bummed that I didn't get to share my first ever Playa pizza with him. When I return from the Playa this year, I will start my first line cook position at a San Francisco restaurant. I hope I do him proud.

Burning Man is an interesting place. I've heard people say there's something for everyone here. I think that's mostly true. Even in a place where stimulation overload can be a daily occurrence, it's also still possible to be in a clean, well lit place, and reflect my thoughts and consider my possibilities. Yup. I'm good.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coordinates locked in

I had dinner with a friend last week, who I think is doing it right.

We have a lot in common. She, like me, has lived an interesting life. She plays guitar and writes beautiful soulful lyrics, and keeps chickens behind her 1920's Craftman home. Through experience, both good and bad, she has managed to curate a lovely life. 

I like having friends like this. They remind me of what I want, and more importantly, that a lovely life is achievable. 

I'm approaching some finalities, and I can see that it's time to get off the pot, having sat through varying incarnations of shit. From here on out, my life is mine for the making. I suppose it always has been, but I forgot that it was. 

I have to say, I'm very happy to be moving beyond this transition period I've been in. I don't have a very specific future in mind, but I do know I want a lovely life. It's a general direction I'm heading.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Think I'm Doing It Wrong

So, here I am smack dab in the middle of middle age at the tender age of 44. Like many in my age group, the thought of mortality is beginning to creep into my thoughts. My body is beginning to protest from excessive exertion. And, I'm starting to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

For a lot of people, I think, middle age can be about loss and regret. We are losing our youth and commercials don't always make sense to us anymore. We are no longer the target audience. Then, our music is on the oldies or classics station. The term bucket list comes into play.

But for me, I feel like I've wanted to be this age my whole life. I'm glad to be out of the bullshit era of my life. I don't feel like I have to prove myself to anyone. I'm educated enough for my own satisfaction. I've already had a lifetime of adventures, and am looking forward to more. That I've managed to put two amazing kids out into the world, brings me a feeling of great achievement. 

Yeah, there are things I still want to do. I know there is more journey out there for me, and not the "Don't Stop Believing" kind. But ironically I won't stop believing that I can contribute to the world in good ways. 

In my thoughts about mortality, I went back to an earlier philosophy about the universe. It's a little hokey and cosmic, but bear with me. My theory is that the universe is actually made of pure knowledge. But when the Big Bang occurred all of that knowledge was scattered. Our existence is a journey on a giant spiral that we travel, picking up the knowledge as we go. If we get enough we get closer to the center and our speed on that spiral is based on how much we learn. 

Have I learned enough? Of course not. But, I feel like I'm getting along at a good pace. The thing is, I'm not in a hurry anymore. The trick to learning is absorbing as much wisdom as you can from every experience and every process. Taking time to do this is not stagnation. It's merely meticulous.

So, what do I have to show for all my comprised ends thus far? What do I want to have? A life well lived. And that life doesn't have to include a plethora of things to prove my accomplishments. I don't need a new car, or a fancy house. What I need is to continue the journey, and maybe to start telling my stories about what I've learned. If anything, that's what I would want to be remembered for. 

Fuck the mid-life crisis. I'm celebrating.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Life is Excellent

There's. A song by a guy named Bobby Joe Ebola with this great chorus,

Life is Excellent
The tap water tastes like excrement
Skies rain poison
But I've gotta pay the rent

Trust me, it's a very catchy tune. The sentiment of the song rings true for me these days. There's a lot of things that really suck in the world right now. People suck with their ignorance and hate filled diatribes. Corporations suck with their greed and total disregard for the public who's money they desire. And, government sucks with their ideologues, duplicity and status quo.

Life is Excellent
the tap water tastes like excrement
Skies rain poison
But I've gotta pay the rent

But, things in my own life aren't that bad. I have this amazing partner who not only gets me, but encourages me to be who I am, even if I have to be that person a couple of thousand miles away from him. Long distance relationships can be hard, but we are both pretty independent people in our own ways. Technology being what it is, we still see each other if not in person, regularly. We work it out. 

Life is excellent
The tap water tastes like excrement
skies rain poison
But I've gotta pay the rent

And, even though I left a career I spent years constructing, I'm ok. I have employment, and it's not bad. I'm working my way out of debt. I have some goals for my future, and some hope that they may come true. I can see a path towards balance. You never quite realize how lost you are until you start to find the way back to the person you use to be, the person you're allowed to be, by yourself and your partner. 

Life is excellent
The tap water tastes like excrement
Skies rain poison 
But I've gotta pay the rent

So, here I am. It's not a perfect life, but what life is? It could be a lot worse. I know because it was a lot worse. But, for now, where I'm at, it's not all that bad. There are challenges ahead, and turmoil, no doubt, but now I'm at least at the point where I can take what I have and make it a happy tune.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Coming Up on Summer Days

So, this is my life right now:  I get up around 6:00 a.m. or so to catch a 7:45 boat. If I need more sleep, I catch an 8:45 bus. Either option will deposit me at the San Francisco Ferry building. I usually have enough time to grab something for lunch there, usually a Rustic Deli Roll from Acme bread, and a few slices of something from the Deli case at SF meats.

If I have time, and energy, I walk up the Embarcadero to Pier 41. Sometimes I take the waterside promenade. It's a little more peaceful and there are spots where small groups of minnows glisten just below the surface of the water. Otherwise, I pay $2.25 via my Clipper card to take a vintage streetcar. Often the latter are filled with tourists, or worse school kids on a field trip. If the car is already filled, it will roll right past us at the Ferry Building stop. Tourists often look perplexed when this happens. One of the locals usually assures them another will be along soon. Sometimes, even if the street car does stop, I opt to wait for the next one in hopes of less of a crowd.

When I arrive to Pier 39, the closest thing San Francisco has to a theme park, I look for the boat I'm to work on for the day. If I can get on board, I drop my backpack behind the bar, check the ice situation and start the coffee. Then, I head to the beverage office. It occupies a corner of the first floor of the Pier 41 Passenger terminal.

The Beverage Office, is the only place the bartenders regularly see each other. Mornings can be hectic. We fill rolling trashcans with ice, check the previous day's inventory for supplies we might need, check the boat schedule, check the work schedule for changes and head out to our vessels for the day. Some bartenders, who have been doing this job for more than a decade, have regular runs. They've earned it. The rest of us get moved around here and there, some more than others.

After I've collected my ice, and inventory, which can include several cases of beer and multiple bottles of liquor, I head out to my boat where I have about 15 minutes to set up the bar before the first run. I've learned that the trick to this is counting the bank first, then getting the snacks out and then worrying about the beer and liquor. I also make sure I have the Bloody Mary ingredients handy. If anything, that's the drink I'm most likely to mix on the first run.

As I set up the bar, the deck hands are busy preparing the boat for the day. They double check the garbage cans, make sure the heads are clean, check fuel, spray down windows and fill the potable water tanks. Meanwhile the captain is upstairs in the wheelhouse going through her own prep. I know we're getting close when I hear the speakers blast the opening music to our tour for a sound check.

After getting a go-ahead from the captain, Guest Services, affectionately called Yellow Jackets for the coats they wear, opens the gate allowing passengers to march down the ramp to the float that our boats are tied to. Most days this happens to a heroic overture blasts from the boat sound system. I've heard passengers compare the music to Jurassic Park. Its theme is lead by a trumpet line with a full orchestra bellowing below it in support, giving the impression of a great adventure ahead.

As passengers board, they are welcomed and directed to stairwells. I cheerfully tell them, "It's always 5:00 on the boat! In fact it's Bloody Mary o'clock right now!"   My pitch changes after the second cruise. Then it turns to Margarita o'clock.

The next several hours are spent greeting people and making small talk as I pour their drinks and coffee. I give out recommendations for restaurants and internally roll my eyes when people ask for a good seafood place nearby. Occasionally, I'll get a vibe from a visitor that they appreciate the authentic. For these people I give up the really good spots in town. I send them for Tapas in the Mission and for real dim sum just off the main drag in China Town.

As the day progresses, the wind picks up. Our late afternoon run is punctuated by kite-boarders who catch insane air using our wake as a ramp. And, with the wind comes the chill, so it's not uncommon to need to brew a second pot of coffee in the afternoon.

On the last trip out I start closing down. I restock for the next day, finish my inventory, and clean, clean, clean. Once we've tied up, if I'm done with my close, I walk right off the boat. If the last run is busy though, I sometimes struggle to be finished in time enough to not make the crew wait for me.

It's an interesting job. I'm surrounded by light and color all day, and meet people from all over the world. I see birds, sea lions, and sometimes porpoises, dolphins and even whales. I like to say I'm in the business of making people's day, and sometimes it rings true. Sometimes all it takes is a reassuring smile, a hot beverage or a cold beer to make everything better for my passengers who are mostly far out of their comfort zone or a long way from home in San Francisco.

Although I am working a lot right now, with little rest, it's helping me pay down my debt. And, every year I hope to be debt free. It's been a long hard struggle to get within reaching distance of this goal. I know it will be worth it once I'm there.  But for now, at least I have the water, the sky, the waves and the sun, oh and tips. There's tips too.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday Is My Tuesday

I never thought I'd hate Saturday morning, but for the moment I do. Gone are the days of cartoons and cinnamon toast till noon. Now, in my proletariate life, I rush to catch the only bus to San Francisco, at 7:30 am.  The bus is filled with others like me, who work in the City. We dose silently, bemoaning our early plight as others snooze or enjoy a prolonged snuggle with their mate. 

The consolation for this feat is being deposited at the Ferry Building where the Farmer's Market is gaining its full swing momentum. After obtaining an overpriced cappuccino and cannoli, I set myself down at a window seat, facing the Bay and engage with the latest New Yorker on my iPad. Happy chatter surrounds me, and locals parade by carrying rainbow varieties of greens and carrots.

Then, I'm reminded, it's not a bad life. I have time to sit and enjoy the morning of what is my Tuesday. I'll work through the weekend until Wednesday when I will be the one enjoying a lazy morning in bed while everyone else goes to work. 

I'm working diligently to carve out a life that works for me. It's hard, especially when I see friends still reaching for brass rings, still fighting the good fight. I don't deny that I feel pangs of guilt for not actively contributing to that struggle. I question the decisions that brought me here. Then I remind myself that I spent a lot of time giving and doing for others. In fact, I feel like I've contributed a lot, accomplished a lot. I'm OK with where I'm at right now.

I've heard that when looking for love, it comes to you when you stop trying so hard to find it. I think that theory applies to happiness as well. I spent a lot of time doing all the things I thought would fulfill me, only to come up drained and at a deficit in spirit. 

In some ways I've lowered my expectations. It makes it easier to accept what's thrown at me. I accept the good, find a way to work with the bad, and try to remember to be thankful for all I have, and how far I've come. 

It's a perfectly good enough life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Figuring Out Funds

I've been doing a lot of finance writing lately. It's something I actually enjoy. Economics fascinate me, and as a self-proclaimed frugality maven, I enjoy thinking about better ways to use and save money.

As I approach my mid 40's, I can't help but think about the future. I realize I have no money saved. I'm not unique in this situation. Most Americans have only enough money to last them 2 years for retirement. It's a scary thought. And while I'm not above relying on my children to support me in my older years, I'd like to be able to be a bit better prepared. 

I've been blathering on lately about simple living, doing with less, et cetera. I'm beginning to see that this lifestyle choice may help me with this's retirement quandary. First of all, by spending less, I can save more. I have a a goal in mind of what I want to save this year. Second, living with less is both sensible and prepetory for a time when I may not have a choice in the matter. And, third, as much as I would like stability, and security, I realize it may be elusive. I'm preparing myself for this possibility. 

My goals right now are simple: get out of debt, live simply, save money, have an adventure or two along the way, be happy. It's my vision for a simple but lovely life. Financial security would be great, but I need to be ready in case it doesn't happen.

And if it does happen, and a windfall happens upon me, I need to be especially mindful of my choices. I was never a frivolous person to begin with, but it doesn't mean I shouldn't reign it in. Now is the time to make wise choices. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Time To Think, And Time To Rest

I have a lot of time to think. I like this. It means I get to genuflect. I consider a lot of things in this process, and overall, it's hard to complain. 

I've been busy lately. The Jerk Church Tabernacle Choir just started its 2015 season by playing Indie Fest in San Francisco last night. It had been a while since I was on a stage in a real theater. It was fulfilling. I like to play, I like to sing, I even like getting gussied up for the stage.

Today, I'm heading back to San Francisco for more Bay Cruises. I was fully expecting to not work today, but the epic storm we are expecting, seems to have stalled out some. I'm still predicting an early end to my work day.

Although I'm tired a lot, and spend more waking hours on water than on land, I like what I do. It's satisfying in a way I never expected. For the first time, I feel like I'm succeeding. I realize that for most people working as a bartender would not be on their list for success, but I'm good with it. Really good. I like that I don't have to put on airs about what I do. There's nothing to be arrogant about. For the moment, I'm happy with my station in life.

I heard that your 40's are about figuring it all out, and for me, I'm very pleased to find that notion to be true. I don't miss stress, not one bit. I don't miss trying to impress people with what I do, or scheming a new way to be ahead of the pack on the next big thing. Some might say I'm just floating, and in a way I am, both literally and figuratively. But I've learned so much from that.

I've learned by watching sea birds, that sometimes it's ok to just paddle around getting what you need to make it to the next day. I learned from sea lions that having a safe place to rest is as important to survival as food. And I learned from the tides that there is an ebb and flow to everything. 

Respite is the key to recovery, be it from an injury, emotional trauma, or too many years of not really resting at all.  Somehow, I've managed to carve out a life that allows me to rest. I might not get a lot of sleep, but I feel a little more rejuvenated every day. Hoping for more. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Riding the Tide

There's a lot going on for me right now. A new future seems to be forming before me, and it is definitely exciting. 

But let's go back a ways. For years I always had some sort of future in mind. I had goals, hopes, plans and even secret desires of what I wanted to accomplish. Through sheer will I was able to accomplish most of what I set out to do with varying success. 

 A while ago, I guess, I let go of that way of thinking. I quit trying to make things happen. I gave up willing my way through life, because, and I know this sounds dippy, it was just inorganic. In a lot of ways I just gave up. I was tired of putting in so much effort for results that were less than satisfying. 

In spite of all the success, I always felt hollow and unfulfilled, until I got to a point where I started to just let life happen. And somehow, without willing my way there, life has become an interesting pastiche of adventure, and love, and family.  I feel lucky now. 

I admit, I'm  back to having goals, but they are different. These aren't goals met by will, but by passion.  I see potential lining up for me, but as with a dog you don't know, I'm letting them come to me. If a situation doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to be. Yes, it's fatalistic, but I'm perfectly fine with that. I'd rather ride with the current than against it. 

Monday, January 19, 2015


Life has suddenly become about Balance.

Balance is taking the 8:45am bus to get to work in the City, and having time to hit the bank before heading down the Embarcadero to Pier 41.  Balance is spending the day surrounded by light and water and color that calms my mind while watching the shore go by.

My days are mellow. It's still the off season which means fewer crowds and a better quality of tourists. The passengers seem more grateful for the experience on the San Francisco Bay Cruise I've been working recently. Fewer passengers make for less money in tips, but also less work. Daily inventory is easier, and  I'm grateful for the downtime because it gives me time to do research and write for my new freelance gig.

Oh yeah, I'm writing again, I mean beyond all of this dribble. I'm glad for the work, and hopeful that it will pan out to be a nice long term gig. Realistically though, I know that it could dry up at any time. So, I'm doing my best to make the most of it.

I feel like I'm beginning to reemerge into a new life, a life that is somewhat planned if not downright intentional. When I tell people about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, I forget how different it is from what most people experience.

So yeah, this is my life:  I'm a bartender on the San Francisco ferries. Since that job gives me a lot of down time, I'm also a freelance writer and communications consultant. In August, I leave the water behind to spend 6 weeks in the Black Rock City dessert working for Burning Man. I have a great partner in Canada, who I go see as often as I can.  I have some goals in mind, like building a tiny house of sorts, but for now I'm looking forward to moving into my childhood home with my sister. I'm getting close to being out of debt.

Life is good.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Things I Use to Regret

Some people don't believe in regrets, but I've come to learn that for me at least, regret is how I achieve   understanding. Admittedly, I have few regrets in life, but the ones I have, or had, dissipate with time as I've seen how time played things out. 

When I was in the Army, I was what they called, "hard core." I put every fibre of my being into being a soldier. I had the ambition, and the drive, and love for the esprit de corps. It's one of the few places where almost immediately, I felt I belonged. If anyone was going to be a lifer it was going to be me. 

The reasons I left the Army were complex, but I did leave. It was a decision I regretted for years. and for years I kept thinking, I could always go back, until I was too old, too out of shape, and I finally realized that that life was truly gone from me. 

It was hard, and it was something I actually mourned. What made it more difficult was that during that time, my then spouse remained in the military, or closely associated with its work. I felt left out, and a little lost. But, that didn't kill my ambition. My drive went into my kids, my education and my career.

My regret reached its peak, when friends I served with started to retire. But then, I started to take a look at the toll the experience took on them, and realized, that maybe my departure from that path wasn't so bad often all.  

My Partner, Ric often says, "Things have a way of working out." He's right, they do. Lessons are learned, opportunities revealed, and without intention, life takes me to unexpected places I wanted to be anyway. I know how lucky I am, but even if my luck runs out, I won't discount my regret as part of the journey that gets me to where ever I'm going. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Tiny Obsession

I can't explain my obsessions. Sometimes I just get a wild hair up my but and BAM! I have a new obsession. Right now, as we all know it's Tiny Living. So why am I so obsessed with the idea of tiny Living?

1.  The Cacoon Effect - Somehow feeling cozy in a smaller space is just more comfortable to me, especially if I have everything I need. It's that same feeling I would get when playing in a large box as a kid. I could just imagine my whole world in there. Maybe that's what I'm reverting to.

2.  Having What I Need - Small spaces help limit the amount of stuff I own. I get a very strong sense of security by knowing I have a very specific list of things with me. Maybe this is why I was able to adapt to life at Burning Man so well. I love knowing what I need, and knowing I have it. Much easier to do when you own so much less.

3.  Flexibility/Mobility - I'm beginning to understand that I like to have the option to move around if I want to. I don't know if it's a wander lust or if I just like the idea of being able to move, or not being tied down to a lease or a mortgage. It's extraordinarily liberating. Of course this is all in theory. I don't have tiny digs yet to move around.

4.  Doing More With Less - Maybe my new theme for life. I sit here and fantasize about ways to make my life work in a smaller space. My daydreams mostly center around how I will cook, but also include the mundane things like laundry and leisure time. Oh the leisure time! 

I still don't know exactly what will come of my Tiny Life Fantacy. Right now I'm enjoying the showcase in my head. The reality will come soon enough, or not at all. Either way it's a great feeling to have a life in mind that I want to lead. It is a great thing indeed.